Follow TV Tropes


Creator / [adult swim]

Go To

"All kids out of the pool for Adult Swim!"

Adult Swim (stylized as [adult swim] or [as]) is a programming block on Cartoon Network shown during the watershed hours.note 

The block is notable for its idiosyncratic commercial bumpers (bumps), its strange and cynical yet hilarious original programming, its habit of openly teasing and/or bashing those fans who complain about its near-weekly- and never advertised- schedule changes (especially when April Fools' Day is concerned), and being nearly the only place on American basic cable TV to run anime not aimed at children. The name comes from the public pool period in which child occupants must leave the pool, as the lifeguards go on break and the lack of supervision means only the adults can swim, analogous to the network switching to adult-oriented programming. This reference was explicitly invoked in its early years, when its Ad Bumpers and intro segment showed video clips from an adult swim pool.

Founded in 2001 by Cartoon Network's Williams Street division (the same studio that organizes Toonami), the block was born from two things: the realization that a third of Cartoon Network's audience was teenagers and adults and the fact that the channel was constantly receiving cartoon pitches that would be perfect for that demographic. Just as Cartoon Network primarily featured cartoons for kids, Adult Swim focused on adult-oriented animation: namely black comedies and edgy, largely unedited anime.note  After the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare that involved an attempt at advertising the release of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, Adult Swim began producing live-action programming; opinions vary on this.note  Upon Toonami's return in May 2012, Adult Swim would be relegated purely to comedy programming, with the action block once again taking the responsibility of all anime-related programming.

Adult Swim doesn't show any advertising for Cartoon Network because of its adult orientation, despite the fact that the block controls all nighttime programing on the network. In addition, the block has had its own separately-branded ventures, events, and merchandise. For these reasons, and for Nielsen ratings purposes, Adult Swim is considered to be its own "separate network".note 

As with its daytime counterpart, many of its original programs have seen critical praise. This attention extends to Adult Swim bringing more exposure to mature anime series, as well as rescuing other shows from death or complete obscurity.

Typically, Sundays are anchored by premieres of original programs from Williams Street; while Saturdays mix comedies with English-dubbed anime, the latter of which taking up a majority of the network's airtime. Adult Swim is known for the unique timing of commercial breaks. note  Adult Swim has only 2 breaks per half-hour; one break in the middle of the half-hour, and one at the end. Viewers appreciate this for obvious reasons, plus they can sometimes have up to 5 uninterrupted minutes of commercial time to leave the TV and do other things before the next show comes on. Considering AS's key demographic is the television gold-mine of people from age 18-36, advertisers still pony up the dollars. The only downside to the viewer would be a Commercial Break Cliffhanger in non-original programming is less effective because the show continues immediately after (unless, of course, that happens to be where the break actually hits). note 

Beyond television, Adult Swim hosts an eclectic collection of free-to-play games (Robot Unicorn Attack included) and Web Original programs on its website. They began publishing more substantial indie titles as "[adult swim] Games" in 2013. At one point, Adult Swim also had their own record company: Williams Street Records. Adult Swim continues to promote indie and underground music through music videos, special bumps, and their on-going "Singles Program" of free music that began in 2015.

On March 4, 2019, oversight of Cartoon Network, along with Turner Classic Movies, were transferred from Turner Broadcasting to Warner Bros. as part of a larger restructuring at corporate parent WarnerMedia. While changes were minimal at first, 2023 saw Adult Swim expand beyond its original schedule to prime time slots formerly occupied by mainline Cartoon Network. Adult Swim has been slated to premiere shows originally meant to air on Cartoon Network, like Unicorn: Warriors Eternal and My Adventures with Superman, as well as "Checkered Past", a two-hour block of classic Cartoon Network shows like Dexter's Laboratory and Courage the Cowardly Dog in early evening hours.

Adult Swim has produced - or acquired - the following series:

    open/close all folders 

    Original programming 

    Specials & notable pilots 

    Syndicated programming 

Animated imports/syndicated:

  • Adventure Time note 
  • American Dad! note 
  • Baby Blues note 
  • The Bob Clampett Show note 
  • Bob's Burgers note 
  • Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos note 
  • Clerks: The Animated Series note 
  • The Cleveland Show note 
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog note 
  • Dexter's Laboratory note 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy note 
  • Family Guy note 
  • Futurama note 
  • The Gary Coleman Show note 
  • God, the Devil and Bob note 
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy note 
  • King of the Hill note 
  • Mission Hill note 
  • Mister T note 
  • The Oblongs note 
  • The PJs note 
  • The Popeye Show note 
  • The Ripping Friends note 
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle note 
  • The Super Globetrotters note 
  • Sit Down, Shut Up note 
  • SuperMansion note 
  • Toon Heads note 
  • Unsupervised note 

Note: Except for American Dad!, Bob's Burgers and Family Guy, all of these series were cancelled and discarded by their original host networks before syndication rights were picked up by Adult Swim (this was also the case for Family Guy, but it has since been Uncanceled due partially to ratings for the reruns on Adult Swim). Adult Swim's expired rights to Futurama were picked up by Comedy Central, which led to the show's revival on that network. Home Movies was renewed as an Adult Swim original series for an additional three seasons following its original cancellation.

Live-action imports/syndicated:

    Pre-Toonami Anime a.k.a. [adult swim] AcTN note  
Anime Shown as Part of the [adult swim] AcTN Block:
  • Astro Boy note 
  • The Big O note 
  • Bleach note 
  • Blood+ note 
  • Blue Gender note 
  • Case Closed note 
  • Code Geass note 
  • Cowboy Bebop note 
  • Crayon Shin-chan note 
  • Death Note note 
  • Durarara!! note 
  • Eureka Seven note 
  • FLCL note 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) note 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood note 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex note 
  • Gigantor note 
  • Inuyasha note 
  • Kekkaishi note 
  • Kikaider note 
  • Lupin III: Part II note 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam note 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket note 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory note 
  • Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit note 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion note 
  • Outlaw Star note 
  • Paranoia Agent note 
  • Pilot Candidate note 
  • Reign: The Conqueror note 
  • Samurai Champloo note 
  • Scryed note 
  • Super Milk Chan note 
  • Tenchi Muyo! note 
  • Trigun note 
  • Trinity Blood note 
  • Voltron note 
  • Witch Hunter Robin note 
  • Wolf's Rain note 
  • YuYu Hakusho note 

Anime Films Shown on the [adult swim] AcTN Block:

Anime Shown Only on [adult swim] Australia and New Zealand:

Anime Shown Only on [adult swim] UK and Ireland:

Anime Shown Only on [adult swim] Latin America (through Cartoon Network and i-Sat):

Anime Shown Only on [adult swim] Germany (through TNT Comedy):

† denotes shows produced by or co-funded by Adult Swim.Current Shows:

Upcoming Shows

Expired License/Former Shows:


Toonami Immersion Events:

Series Shown Only on [adult swim] UK and Ireland:

Series Shown Only on [adult swim] Canada:

Series Shown Only on [adult swim] Latin America:

adult swim Website Games:

Console and PC games published by [adult swim]:

[adult swim] Web Originals

  • On Cinema note 
    • Decker note 
    • The Trial Of Tim Heidecker note 
  • FishCenter Live note 
  • Williams Street Swap Shop note 
  • Bloodfeast note 
  • The Cry of Mann note 
  • The Weather note 
  • Electronic Game Information note 
  • Truthpoint Darkweb Rising


Furthering the divide between Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, international versions of the later have become seldom carried as a block on the former.

For example, due to the local version of Cartoon Network in the United Kingdom being classified as a kids' channel under British broadcasting regulations, the network is forbidden from showing any adult content, even after the UK's 9PM watershed. As a result, Adult Swim blocks would end up on networks such as the U.K Bravo, TCM2note , Fox UKnote , and truTV UKnote . Some of the original shows are currently available on Netflix, while the block itself would end up on Channel 4 sibling E4 (as well as E4's own sibling, E4 Extra, once the channel launched in 2022), with select programming available on-demand via Channel 4's online streaming service.

In Australia and New Zealand, the local branch of Adult Swim aired on Cartoon Network until the end of 2007. Comedy programming moved to The Comedy Channel, while many Adult Swim titles are available on DVD in the two countries through a licensing deal with Madman Entertainment.

In Latin America, Adult Swim was eventually moved from Cartoon Network to I.Sat due to negative reviews from the parents. Adult Swim has used Spanish SAP audio since 2007. The block was also launched in Brazil on TBS on November 3, 2014. On October 31, 2023, Adult Swim finally returned as a 24 hour channel similar to the Canadian version.

In Canada, Adult Swim programming has historically aired on Teletoon's own late-night block, Teletoon at Night (originally called The Detour). A domestic version was launched in 2012 as the late-night block of the Canadian version of Cartoon Network; a sibling to Teletoon. The block was composed of older originals, as well as other acquired shows (even Samurai Jack!), but seldom aired newer original programming. Some of Adult Swim's current shows have been acquired by other networksnote . To compensate, Adult Swim Games launched an SVOD app, allowing Canadians to watch new episodes and past seasons of original shows. After the discontinuation of the app in November of 2018, and restructuring at parent company Corus Entertainment, both Teletoon at Night and the Canadian Adult Swim block were discontinued in March 2019. This was followed by the launch of the first-ever, 24/7 Adult Swim channel in April 2019.

Tropes exhibited by [adult swim] include:

  • Ad Bumpers: Adult Swim is quite famous for these. You can see an entire archive of these bumps here.
  • Animated Shock Comedy: Adult Swim airs several of these, such as King Star King and Mr. Pickles.
  • all lowercase letters: Adult Swim's branding of course, stylized as [adult swim].
  • Alternate Reality Game: In August 2017, short and cryptic bumps aired on Adult Swim. Progressively, it told a story about artificial intelligences, shady corporations and time displacements, among other things... The ARG is inactive since April 2020. An exhaustive look at the ARG can be seen here.
  • Animation Bump: Series such as Rick and Morty, The Venture Bros., The Boondocks, and especially Black Dynamite and the shows created by Genndy Tartakovsky have higher-quality animation that many of the network's shows tend to avoid.
  • Animation Age Ghetto: invokedThe Nielsen ratings are often considered to be an example of this. While this is subverted for their comedy titles, it's played straight for most of their anime titles. This is also played straight with many of their home videos, especially the earlier releases, as they are still edited just like their TV versions.
  • April Fools' Day: Adult Swim has a running tradition of messing with their programs on April 1st, both the night of and the following day. Examples being mustaches drawn on characters, putting fart noises in the shows, running a marathon of Perfect Hair Forever as dated VHS with badly done subbing, playing The Room (2003) (which is what arguably granted the movie more infamy as it now had a wider audience) or even bringing back past Williams Street blocks such as Toonami for the night. One year, they dug up reruns of Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos.
  • Artifact Title:
    • Adult Swim is named as such as it came from the analogy of the network switching to adult-oriented programming by showing Ad Bumpers consisting of a public pool period where the children have to get out and let the adults swim. This analogy hasn't been used since January 2003, when these bumpers were replaced with new ones in the style of safety manuals featuring characters from the block's lineup, only for those to be replaced with the famous "white text on black" style bumpers just four months later. Also, the "swim" part isn't really recognized much anymore.
    • Contributing to Cartoon Network's controversial decision of adding live action shows to the channel, Adult Swim has also controversially added a number of live action shows to their lineup. While the live-action Adult Swim shows have better critical reception than their regular Cartoon Network counterparts, these works have unsurprisingly not been well-received by a good portion of the fanbase, especially if you ask fans of the anime or the classic animated comedies.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Adult Swim wished for the third season of Moral Orel to be darker than either of the previous two - and instantly regretted it. The series was then cancelled.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor:
    • Adult Swim has often made fun of their own strange programming decisions at times. They also have had plenty of things to say about Cartoon Network's executive decisions, to say the least.
    • From a segment on Robot Chicken:
      "Stupid Adult Swim only plays it [Inuyasha] on Saturdays now."
    • In Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 01 the episode "Jumpy George" has a woman hiring Meatwad to babysit her children. Her instructions:
      "And they can watch TV but only a half an hour, and only cartoons, so that means no Cartoon Network."
  • Cassette Futurism: This Gold Commercial.
  • Channel Hop: An unusual temporary example: fellow Turner network TNT aired a special block of programming from AS after the 2003 NBA All-Star Game hosted by Carl and Brak, dubbed as Cartoon Network's Adult Swim All-Star Extravaganza.
  • Colon Cancer: A parody Police Procedural series titled "NTSF:SD:SUV::" which stands for "National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle::", uses multiple colons in its title.
  • Commercial Pop-Up:
    • During the "world premiere" of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force film, the movie was aired normally for the first 7 minutes, and then displayed without sound in a barely visible tiny box in the corner of the screen, and episodes of Family Guy, Futurama, and even Aqua Teen Hunger Force itself aired while the movie ran (in its entirety) in the corner. During this, humongous pop-up ads for the movie with loud sound effects also appeared from time to time.
    • One episode of Frisky Dingo had a message on the screen for 15 seconds at the start that said "This is where the network puts that mammoth bug." Then, "Enjoy the show." Biting-the-Hand Humor doesn't even begin to cover it.
  • Content Warnings:
    • "Just in case that last disclaimer wasn't enough, this episode contains extreme violence. We would rather run this than cut the violence from the episode because we are American Cowboys." —Adult Swim before really bloody anime episodes; as stated, it follows a more traditional content warning advising that Adult Swim is not for viewers under 18...err 14.
    • Because "viewer discretion" warnings are a staple of Canadian TV, they are aired by Adult Swim Canada. The program block on Cartoon Network Canada only featured white text on a black background, like AS's famous bumpers, but the 24-hour Adult Swim Canada channel features content warnings with various nature backgrounds.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Cartoon Network's other brands, given that it's aimed at adults.
  • Foreshadowing: Adult Swim once aired a "Where Are They Now" style bump, with the last one featuring Brak, Zorak, and Moltar planning a revival of Cartoon Planet. Cartoon Planet would return on March 31, 2012.
  • Ignorant About Fire: A notable bumper (adapted from Gunshow) features a dog in a burning house being completely chill over the fire surrounding him. He pays no mind to it even when it melts his skin off.
    Dog: This is fine. I'm okay with the events unfolding before me.
  • Leitmotif: Since 2014, almost all of Adult Swim's sign-off bumpers have a remix of the Star-Spangled Banner playing in the background.
  • Lighter and Softer: The "Checkered Past" block, compared to the rest of the network. It is a two-hour block of classic kid-friendly Cartoon Network shows aimed at nostalgic adults.
  • Minimalism: In contrast to the more kinetic, bombastic Cartoon Network bumpers, the [adult swim] bumps are much more subdued, ranging from white text on a black background to a still image with soft electronic music playing in the background. This serves a dual purpose of keeping costs down while better suiting the late-night ambience (for stoners, viewers on the verge of falling asleep; etc.).
  • Network Decay: Listed in Slipped. Adult Swim has, however, called Cartoon Network's decay out and even lampshaded their own strange programming choices at times. Not to mention due to the same constant schedule switching that has screwed over many of its titles, what's decaying one week can be on the upswing the next.
    • Contributing their part to Cartoon Network's decay (other than the Boston Bomb Scare), Adult Swim continues to produce original live-action shows long after the network abandoned such efforts. At the very least, these shows also have their fans and they are generally considered to be much superior in quality to what Cartoon Network was producing during the CNReal-era.
    • Some have questioned Adult Swim's reliance on Fox acquisitions for both viewership and filler in-spite of the numerous shows they've produced and the other shows they've acquired. These issues had died out when the Disney-Fox merger resulted in Disney and their cable channels note  snatching the reruns rights to all of 20th Century Fox's cartoons. The exception of this is American Dad!, which has been produced for TBS since season 10. Said merger also resulted in AS being able to broadcast Futurama again in 2022.
    • Anime became exclusive to Saturday Nights since 2007, but it has been a longtime Butt-Monkey of sorts for both the network (as evidenced by some of its bumps) and some of its fans. The return of Toonami, which in-turn has helped to grow the industry and caused a resurgence of popularity for the medium in the North America, has gone a long way to at least reverse this aspect of Adult Swim's decay.
    • AT&T's layoffs at WarnerMedia in November 2020 resulted in all of the producers of the livestream material, including AS veteran Matt Harrigan, being laid off and the shows ceasing production.
  • Network Sign Off: Adult Swim (and by extension Cartoon Network) is one of the few American TV channels that still signs off every day, in order to provide a clean break between Cartoon Network's child-friendly programming and Adult Swim's not-child-friendly programming. The design of these has changed over the years, ranging from the traditional "national anthem over random footage" to downright startling ones that ensure that any viewers who fell asleep while watching TV won't be for much longer.
  • New Year Has Come: Adult Swim hosted two New Year's Eve specials in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 one was a parody of the Times Square Ball drop (With Meatwad of Aqua Teen Hunger Force as the ball) hosted by Brak and Carl of ATHF. The 2003 special, "The Bashington's", starts with Brak's family inviting the other Williams Street produced show characters for a party (In-Universe, the only anime character Brak's family invited was Inuyasha, and he couldn't stand any of the guests besides Space Ghost and Birdman so he didn't show) and ends with Brak and his family being told The Brak Show was canceled, which understandably upsets Brak.
  • No Budget: Almost every one of Adult Swim's originals are produced as such. Rick and Morty, any of the shows with traditional and/or stop-motion animation, as well as shows produced for Toonami, avert this.
  • Obviously Not Fine: They commissioned station idents based on ten Gunshow comics. One of them, "This Is Fine", features a cartoon dog calmly insisting everything is okay, while his house burns down around him, and he melts from the heat.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: NTSF:SD:SUV makes it very obvious, although it's really the editing that gives it away, not bad continuity. Such as cutting to a sudden, awkward, far angle shot just for Trent to perform an entire spin kick (with his hair covering his face, no less).
  • Our Product Sucks: Quite a few of the Adult Swim bumpers are self-deprecating, often featuring flames and trolls from their now-defunct message boards and on Twitter. When the network played Saved by the Bell, the network changed its logo to "[crappy 1980's live action tv show network]", after a message board user suggested it.
  • Overly Long Gag: A staple of Adult Swim's earlier shows. In the commentary of a The Venture Bros. episode, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer point out the fact that their show, unlike the rest of Adult Swim, rarely used the device.
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The Western Animation folder on this trope's page could just be renamed the [adult swim] folder as all the examples are [as] programs. It's even lampshaded in the examples themselves.
  • Pun: [all times and music eastern]
  • Quarter Hour Short: With some exceptions, [as] original programming typically runs 11 minutes per episode; the format would even be applied to Cartoon Network's own programming beginning in The New '10s.
  • Running Gag:
    • There are a series of bumps calling attention to some shortcoming or ridiculous doing of the United States, followed by USA showing up with a synthesized voice reciting the letters.
    • Flordia: Where Bad Things Go To Happen.
    • They point out an Epic Fail with a synthesized "Fail".
  • Sadist Show: Most of their shows revolve around characters suffering some sort of indignities, for the sake of an audiences laugh
  • Schedule Slip: The network and its programming are infamous for this.
    • Almost every season of The Venture Bros. has been aired several years apart from each other, in-part due to it being traditionally animated.
    • Ditto The Boondocks, which is outsourced to Korean-based studios specializing in Animesque productions.
    • Rick And Morty became this after its second season; the third season premiered after more than a year the second season ended, and the fourth season premired after a two year hiatus. This is the result of its creators being perfectionists and simultaneously working on other projects in-between the production of the show. When the show became Adult Swim's first breakout hit in years, they order 70-additional episodes just to prevent this trope from happening.
    • The third season of Black Jesus aired in 2019, four years after the second season aired.
    • Off The Air only avoids this because it never had a schedule in the first place.
  • Speech-Centric Work: The vast majority of their series tend to emphasize dialogue given their low-budgets.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Most of their shows are on the cynical side.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Turner networks have a history of doing weird things late at night. TBS' 17 Update Early in the Morningnote  and Tushnote ; and TNT's MonsterVision and 100% Weird. Adult Swim proudly carries on the weird, homegrown feel of those shows and the chaotic, low-budget, free-for-all production that WTBS had during its' formative years.
  • Stylistic Suck: Some animated shows are known for having intentionally crude designs for the sake of comedy. The better-looking shows will still be this in the form of an Affectionate Parody towards cheesy '80s and '90s programs.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: Adult Swim itself is this for Cartoon Network as a whole. From their inagural lineup of Hanna-Barbera parodies (featuring shows like Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, and Sealab 2021) to shows like Moral Orel, Robot Chicken, and G.I. Joe: Resolute.
  • Surreal Horror: Most of the live-action shows post-Tim & Eric, ranging from uncomfortable, confusing and, more recently, legitimate horrifying.
  • Take That!: Adult Swim just loves to do this at times with their Ad Bumpers. On occasions, Adult Swim tends to lampshade this.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: "Attention Toonami Faithful: We heard you. On 05.26.12 #ToonamisBackBitches"
  • Timeshift Channel: With the exception of Saturdays, the "DVR Theater" and the occasional nights of programming decided by contest winners, Adult Swim's second half is usually a repeat of its first half. A thing to note is that considering that Cartoon Network has separate East and West Coast feeds, it's sometimes possible to watch something four times in a night if one so wishes to, if one has DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse or Dish Network, or a cable company with access to the live feeds of the channel on the website.
  • Translation Train Wreck: The 2007 Adult Swim April Fool's Day gag involved 'bootleg' versions of several Adult Swim shows.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: One fan suggested that they pit Brock Samson vs. Black Dynamite and see who wins. Adult Swim ran with it, telling fans to vote on Twitter, and the results would be posted the following week. There was no decisive winner. The final tally was 50/50, and a massive flame-war erupted from both fandoms. Adult Swim followed up with the next match-up: Stewie Griffin vs. Early Cuyler. They also said that what they really want to see is the Brock Samson and Black Dynamite fandoms to fight each other.
    "Because some y'all crazy bitches!"
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: invoked In 2007, Adult Swim launched a guerrilla marketing campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie featuring battery-powered LED placards resembling the Mooninite characters being placed in numerous places around the U.S. However, in Boston, police officials mistakenly thought that the LEDs were bombs, and treated the whole event as such. This event would lead to legal implications being placed on Turner Broadcasting and their contractors, the internet to make mock "Never Forget" memes, and forcing then-current Cartoon Network head Jim Samples to step down. Cartoon Network as fans knew it would never be the same again, not because of any legal incidents, but because of Samples' replacement, Stuart Snyder, who would become the instigator of the channel's infamous Audience-Alienating Era. To this very day, Cartoon Network remains a tug of war between Snyder's successors and the network's older fans. Adult Swim was spared further Network Decay due to Williams Street being a separate operation from the rest of the network.

[adult swim]


Video Example(s):


Pibby - Live-Action

In the 2021 pilot, while fighting the static, Pibby, Melira, and Alloy Boy somehow find themselves in a live-action advertisement at one point, where a child is shocked by their presence. The Adult Swim 2022 April Fools live event has Pibby and BunBun backstage at The Eric Andre Show during the famous "Who Killed Hannibal" segment, and Pibby wanders in the snow by herself in Joe Pera Talks With You.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / RogerRabbitEffect

Media sources: